If you like to drive, you might want to plan your next vacation around one of the world’s most spectacular roads, including these.
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Atlantic Ocean Road, More og Romsdal, Norway
Norway is widely considered to be one of the most spectacularly beautiful countries on Earth, and much of its captivating beauty can be found along the Atlantic Ocean Road. While it’s short, stretching just over five miles, it’s incredibly sweet, twisting and turning through one of the nation’s most dramatic seas and over the beautiful Storseisundet Bridge. Whether the ocean is flat or a storm is brewing, you’re in store for something extraordinary. This scenic road was named Norway’s “Engineering Feat of the Century” in 2005, and is frequently found on lists ranking the world’s most breathtaking roads. Wildlife like whales and seals can often be seen swimming in the blue Atlantic waters, while lush green mountains provide a dramatic backdrop. The stretch between Bud and Kristiansund is one continuous experience packed with coastal scenery, culture and history.
Ruta 40, Patagonia, Argentina
Ruta 40, or National Route 40, is the longest highway in Argentina at 3,195 miles, traversing nearly its entire length. One of the world’s truly great driving adventures, it runs parallel to the Andes from the border town of La Quiaca in the north to Cabo Virgenes in the south, though its southern portion is the most legendary, highlighted by a 870-mile stretch through Patagonia between the Lake District and El Calafate. While it’s mostly paved, it’s still very remote, passing through wild, sparsely populated areas and frontier towns that few visitors ever get to see. From El Calafate you can detour west into Los Glaciares National Park, where you’ll view the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier, one of nearly 50 that are fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. As you gaze out at the glacier from one of the observation decks, you’ll be able to see and hear massive chunks of ice fall into the lake. If you’d like to do some more exploring, there are miles and miles of hiking trails that wind through this diverse, spectacular region too.
The Ring Road, Iceland
This incredible 830-mile drive is best undertaken with plenty of time, ideally at least seven to 10 days in order to really soak up the views that many feel are some of the most amazing on Earth. Begin along the Golden Circle, just a short drive from the capital of Reykjavik, where you can stand in awe as Strokkur Geyser erupts, and marvel at the thundering waterfalls and rainbows that develop in their mists. Fantastical wonders seem to wait around nearly every turn. Walk across a black sand beach to unique cliffs of basalt columns, and take a break at the Glacier Lagoon to cruise among the maze of floating icebergs. Your reward for this unforgettable drive? A soak in the healing waters of the renowned Blue Lagoon.
Alpine Road, Germany
One of the top driving tours in Germany, if not the world, Germany’s Alpine Road stretches for more than 300 miles through the Bavarian Alps, climbing from Lindau on Lake Constance to Schonau on Lake Konigssee. Winding through dramatic mountains as it passes practically an endless number of beautiful castles, abbeys, palaces, over 20 dazzling lakes, and through countless charming towns, you’ll find plenty of excuses to stop for a break, like Neuschwanstein Castle, the fantasy-like castle that was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, and villages with cobbled streets lined with ornate wooden chalet-style homes and buildings housing independent shops and fabulous eateries.
Scenic Byway 163, Monument Valley, Arizona and Utah
Scenic Byway 163, AKA US Route 163 is considered to be one of America’s most iconic roads traveling through Monument Valley, one of the most enduring images of the American West. Travelers pass through isolated, fiery red mesas that are surrounded by a vast, empty desert that’s been used to shoot countless films over the decades, from 1939’s “Stagecoach” to the cult classic “Easy Rider.” As such, the area is likely to look familiar, but you’ll quickly realize that the colors are much more intense than what you’ve seen on the big screen, or in pictures. You’ll pass the magnificent spires of Utah and Arizona’s Navajo country and cross the San Juan River by suspension bridge before the road ends in the little town of Bluff, a historic settlement sandwiched between 300-foot-high dramatic sandstone cliffs.
Tianmen Mountain Road, China
The just under seven-mile Tianmen Mountain Highway features 99 bends as it snakes it ways up the side of Tianmenshan Mountain before reaching the “Gateway to Heaven” with the altitude rising dramatically, from 656 feet to 4,265 feet. Sometimes called the “heaven-linking avenue,” it takes visitors to a natural rock arch cut into the mountain known as Tianmen Cave or Gateway to Heaven, which is accessed by climbing 999 steps. While it is absolutely jaw-dropping, this road is also considered one of the world’s most dangerous. If you’d prefer to view it from afar, you can take a cable car that hangs nearly 4,200 feet above the valley.
Milford Road, New Zealand
In this country where the mountains meet the sea, you may think you’ve stepped right into heaven. “Lord of the Rings,” was filmed here, at least partly because of New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery, much of which can been captured right from Milford Road, found in the heart of the Southern Alps. In fact, the road adventure from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most scenic experiences you can enjoy anywhere in the world on four wheels, taking drivers through the middle of Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area. When you arrive you’ll be immersed in an place described by Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world,” where cliffs rise vertically from dark waters and waterfalls gently cascade down mountain peaks that soar into the sky.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
North Yungas Road was built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of the Chaco War. On one side of the road, there is a deep abyss, and on the other there are towering cliffs that rise up to a height of about 6,562 feet. As there is no escape for a vehicle that becomes even slightly unbalanced on this road that’s only about 10 feet wide, North Yungas is not only considered to be one of the most spectacular roads to drive, it’s another one of the most dangerous. A large section of the road also lacks guardrails of any type, while crosses are installed along precarious hairpin bends warning drivers of accidents that have occurred. This gorgeous thrill-seeker’s drive is definitely not for the faint-of-heart.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
Highway One also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is legendary for its awe-inspiring scenery, particularly the 123-mile cliff-hugging stretch from Monterey to Big Sur on the Central Coast. Here you can look forward to viewing soaring mountains that plunge down to the roaring waves of the Pacific on one side, while majestic, towering redwoods are on the other. The area even boasts a rare purple sand beach near Big Sur at Pfeiffer State Park and a waterfall that cascades down to the sand. Continue farther south, and you’ll reach one of America’s only true castles: Hearst Castle. A variety of tours are available to the public, taking visitors through the 115-room “Casa Grande,” beautiful gardens, the legendary Neptune pool, a Roman pool and an extensive collection of museum-quality artwork.
Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
The heart-pounding drive that follows Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray in Colorado isn’t for those with a fear of heights, but for those who don’t mind maneuvering through the twists and turns, many of which travel the edge of steep cliffs, the reward brings some of the most impressive views on the planet. The “Switzerland of America,” as this region is sometimes called, reveals the dramatic, jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern part of the state, and there are lots of lookout points along the way for capturing postcard-perfect photos too.